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The Baby Sleep Equation: When does ½b + 2s – 1bl + 1w + 2d = 12 hours?

January 28, 2019 3 min read

The Baby Sleep Equation: When does ½b + 2s – 1bl + 1w + 2d = 12 hours?

You know that it’s morning even though you’re not sure how you know. You slowly become aware of your surroundings – the cosiness of the duvet as it envelops you in a snug embrace; the comfort of the bed as you wiggle your bum even further into the mattress; the silence of the house; and the alien but very welcome sensation of an actually rested body.

What’s going on?

And then the realisation slowly dawns…you’ve woken naturally for the first time in, well, as long as you can remember.

Bliss quickly turns to panic as you realise why this is so strange – the kids! Has the baby stopped breathing?! Did the toddler smother in his non-cellular blanket?! Have they been snatched during the night?! A quick check, recheck and third check of both monitors and you finally let yourself believe that everything is as it should be.

You lie back in the bed, not too sure what to do with yourself. You could always get a head start on the day: make breakfasts, empty the dryer that has been so effectively storing the clean clothes for the last three days or tidy up the toys that you weren’t bothered tidying last night because you knew they’d have exploded all over the floor again before breakfast was even over. But no, you decide to enjoy this momentary respite in all its glory. And that’s when your mind starts to wander, and the calculations of the Sleep Equation begin…

For me, figuring out the Sleep Equation usually involves intense detective work where the hours leading up to the ‘incident’ (extended sleep) are analysed repeatedly to find something to replicate. A typical conversation with my husband would usually go something like this:

Me: “It’s 8 o’clock, I can’t believe it.”

Him: “You’re joking, I knew I felt less knackered. Are they still breathing?”

Me: “Seem to be, yeah. You weren’t in with them during the night, were you?”

Him: “No, were you?”

Me: “No. Maybe this is the start of it.”

Him: “Fingers crossed. What do you think it was?”

Me: “Well I gave him that half a banana after his dinner.”

Him: “That probably stuck to him.”

Me: “Yea and the protein in the Bolognese takes longer to digest too so he’s not waking with hunger. We did go for a walk on the beach yesterday evening too.”

Him: “That sea air would have knocked him out. What did you put on him?”

Me: “He had his usual pj’s but I left his socks on for a change.”

Him: “I bet he felt cosier than usual then.”

Me: “Yea maybe that’s the secret. Oh and I took off the warm blanket and just left the cellular one on because I think he gets a bit too hot sometimes.”

Him: “I can never sleep when I’m too hot. I also covered that bit of light that was coming in over the top of the blackout blind with a towel before he went to bed.”

Me: “Oh that might have made a difference too. I read somewhere that their brains never fully go to sleep if there’s any light in the room.”

Him: “Yea it might have stopped him waking fully when he got into his light sleep. 8 o’clock, I can’t believe it. What’s the weather like today?”

Me: “Same as yesterday I think, why?”

Him: “We’ll have to go to the beach again so. And we’ll need more bananas too…”

So that was our Sleep Equation: ½ banana + 2 socks – 1 warm blanket + 1 walk + doubly darkened room = 12 hours sleep.

It lasted a day.

Of course we attempted to replicate it the next night and of course it didn’t work. And so we had a whole new equation by the very next day. And most days. It never ceases to amaze me the energy we put into trying to get a few extra minutes sleep at night or a longer break during the day. We’ve tried more food (so they don’t wake with hunger); less food (so they don’t get nightmares from eating too late); dark rooms (so their brains can fully fall asleep); rooms with a bit of light (so they’re not waking afraid of the dark); warm blankets (so they’re cosy); lighter clothes (so they’re not overheating); milk at bedtime (to soothe them to sleep); less milk (so they’re not waking with wet nappies) … the list is endless! I guess sleep is one of only a handful of things humans need to survive so it’s a fairly strong basic instinctual drive.

Of course we could always just go to bed an hour earlier every night and save all this hassle, but that would just be way too logical, wouldn’t it?

 


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